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On The Scene - Super Days in Sunny California

BY Gerrye Wong   February 19, 2016

Golden State Warriors Interim Coach Luke Walton presents Chinese New Year jerseys to San Francisco Mayor Ed lee and People's Republic of China Deputy Consul General Zha Liyou.
The Super Bowl frenzy is a thing of the past but watching our GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS in action is always exciting. On February 9, it was especially exciting to see the team don their 2015-2016 season Chinese New Year uniforms against the HOUSTON ROCKETS in honor of the start of the Lunar New Year.  WARRIORS PRESIDENT AND COO RICK WELTS announced, “We have an amazing following from our Chinese fans both here in the Bay Area and abroad, so hosting a Chinese New Year celebration at Oracle Arena and wearing these uniforms is a great way to not only connect with the Asian culture but thank our fans for supporting us throughout the season.” 

Two happy Warriors fans Valerie Jeung and Gerrye Wong at Oracle Stadium.

That night, in addition to TNT, the Warriors game was broadcast the on CCTV for the millions of fans in China. Enjoying and reporting on the game with me were  8asians blogger  John Lin and Sing Tao Newspapers Senior Reporter Zheng Zhang along with faithful Warriors fans Tom and Joanne Tanabe, Valerie Jeung, Palmer and Betty Lam and Steve Fong.  Following the game Interim Coach LUKE WALTONpresentedSAN FRANCISCO MAYOR ED LEE and DEPUTY CONSUL GENERAL OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA ZHA LIYOU with the Warriors Chinese New Year shirt and I presented all three a furry stuffed animal monkey to bring them CNY good fortune this year.  Also presented lucky monkey to Media Advisor Massimo DeGaudenziI who shared his own maternal Chinese roots to the reporters as he led us down to meet the Lion dancers who had performed at half time.  We monkeys are mischievous but always on the winning side, so this is a perfect omen for our favorite WARRIORS, don’t you agree? 

Gerrye Wong presents Chinese New Year monkeys to wish good fortune to Mayor Ed lee and Deputy Consul General Zha Liyou.
THE EUREKA THEATREis what I would sometimes name a neighborhood theater, but the distinction is the neighborhood is at the edge of San Francisco’s Financial District in what was once called the Golden Gateway district. The small theatre has seen many a fine production and I am looking forward to seeing its upcoming show, Theatre Rhinoceros production of THE CALL by Tanya Barfield. This West Coast premier is about a happy couple deciding to adopt and setting their sights on a child from Africa. When news from the adoption agency comes, their marriage is put to the test, secrets of the past are exposed and this couple approaching midlife is left with an unexpected choice.
JON WAI-KEUNG LOWE,Director and Set Designer, comes from a long line of credits and is the founding artistic director of the Visible Theater. An alumnus of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, he has designed scenery lighting for over 20 Rhino productions, Berkeley Rep, ACT and the Beijing Zoo. Playing the lead of Peter is Hawlan Ng in this limited engagement with opening night Thursday February 26 and  running through March 12 at the Eureka Theater in San Francisco.  Tickets can be purchased by calling 800 838 3006; TheRhino.org for more information.

Actors in play THE CALL face cultural diversity and romance in Central California Valley story.
The CHINESE CULTURE FOUNDATION (CCF) has exciting news that the SKY BRIDGE is to be the finale for the Central Subway Temporary Art Project.  The multi-year project, “Central Subway, Journey to Chinatown” is one of the first initiatives to bring public art to Chinatown and celebrates the coming of the San Francisco Central Subway to the community while transforming the public space.  Executive Director of CCF, Mabel Teng, predicts, “Sky Bridge will be the most amazing piece of public art in Chinatown and will represent the bringing of public art to Chinatown and the coming together of the community.”   The art will be installed on the pedestrian bridge over Kearny Street, linking the Chinese Culture Center to Portsmouth Square, a landmark in Chinatown.  Beili Liu was selected to create the stunning installation piece, SKY BRIDGE which will be unveiled August 1st.

Happy volunteer workers of Chinese Culture Center cover floor of new Sky Bridge with mirror-reflective silver mylar.

Artists commissioned to create pieces that commemorate the Central Subway connecting Chinatown to the rest of the city included CHARLIE CHIN, GOLD MOUNTAIN POETRY SOCIETY, JUSTIN HOOVER, LAUREN HUANG, JON JANG and FENG JIN. Describing her artwork, artist Liu said, “Each and every individual brick is covered with mirror-reflective silver Mylar so the rhythmic reflective grid transforms the bridge into a river-like silver pathway.”  The installation will also highlight the 50th anniversary of the CHINESE CULTURE FOUNDTION. Among other 50th anniversary celebrations will be a suite of summer festivals in July and August and the opening of a new experimental space, 41 Ross Central Subway Station, is scheduled to open in 2019.   Joining with the CHINESE CULTURE FOUNDATION, community partners for the project are theCHINATOWN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CENTER, and the CHINESE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA in collaboration with the Portsmouth Square Hilton Hotel and other local businesses and merchants.
Information:  www.c-c-c.org;
THE ASIAN ART MUSEUM kicks off its golden anniversary this year with PEARLS ON A STRING: ARTISTS, PATRONS, AND POETS AT THE GREAT ISLAMIC COURTS,   a special exhibition that will take viewers to the Islamic world in the 16th through 18th centuries. Presented in the form of three stories, each is centered on a protagonist from a different century and empire. Through 64 exquisite artworks, including manuscripts, paintings, jeweled objects, sculpture, textiles and metalwork, the exhibition vividly illustrates an early modern world rapidly changing with the global movement of people, ideas and technologies.  Exhibit continues through February 26-May 8, 2016. The San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture is located at 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 
San Francisco Symphony’s Chinese New Year concert was a smash hit atLouise Davies Symphony Hallwith children’s activities during the reception, and the  Loong Mah Sing See Wui women’s colorful dragon dance opening the program.  Lively conductor Mei-Ann Chen led the SFS with animation, but the mesmerizing performer of the evening was multi-percussionist Haruka Fujii beating out sounds from two large bowls of water, with her hands, sticks, violin string bow, cups and wooden bowls  in collaboration withTan Dun’s Water Percussion Concerto.  Soprano Pureum Jo introduced the audience to an aria she will be singing with her San Francisco Opera debut as Dai Yu in Dream of the Red Chamber, set to open in September, 2016.

At San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year concert were faithful supporters Ellen Magnin, Genelle Relfe and Gerrye Wong.

 The Imperial Dinner following the concert was held in Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall at the rear of Davies Hall for 350 diners, but I must confess the atmosphere and ambiance of past years at San Francisco’s City Hallwas much more elegant for this patron who has supported SFS’s CNY event for the past 15 years.  Seen enjoying the festivities were the George Leungs, Hanley Sious, David Zhang, Thao Dodson, Peter Lams, Steven Lee, Ellen Magnin, Genelle Relfe, Buck Gees and Honorary Chairmen Iris  and Michael Chan.

Greeting San Francisco Symphony concert goers were Gerrye Wong, San Francisco Mayor Ed and Mrs. Anita Lee, Honorary Chairperson Iris S. Chan.
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET ITwas the George Gershwin musical that San Mateo High School Performing Arts presented to exuberant audiences who gave the high school performers endless applause during their two week run.  Held in the beautiful San Mateo High School Theater, the show was on par with many aBroadway and San Francisco local production with spectacular voice renditions from leads Ateliano Naufahu and Maggie Phillips. Equally ear pleasing were their supporting cast singers Aghaya Krishnan-jha, Marc Shehayed,  Laura Schuster, Ankur Kela, Bella Ellis. Tom Alexander,  Alex Arbisman and Paige Stoveland.  The whole cast, including Music Director Attilio Tribuzi’s  great orchestra, the stage crew, the dancers in the Vice Squad, Chorus Girls and the Bubble Girls troupes, deserve a big hand for putting on a triple A show far beyond what one expects of a high school production.   It wasn’t just Nice Work, but great work that we got when seeing Director Brad Friedman and Choreographer Robyn Tribuzi’s  students do their thing so superbly in NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT  show.  Keep up the good work, everyone!

San Mateo High School star of Nice Work If You Can Get It, Aghaya Krishnan-jha, welcomes her mother and her dentist, Dr. Michael Wong following her performance.

Nice Work if You Can Get It musician Ryan Hong and dancer Adrienne Lee are congratulated by Vicky Wong and Dr. Mike Wong.

The 8th SPRING FESTIVAL SILICON VALLEY will bring to audiences a wonderful panorama of color, dance and music with fanciful costumes and local artists, according to Ann Woo, Director. To be held MARCH 5 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts both in matinee and evening, over 50 musicians and artists will be performing to commemorate the Chinese Performing Arts of America’s 25th Anniversary.  A world premiere of the dance drama Silk Road Fantasy will be shown.  This show is great for families, children and all adults who appreciate Chinese music and dance. So get your tickets now and don’t miss this once in a lifetime world class show featuring local artists and dancers from China. Tickets: sf.cpaasv.org; 408 973 3276

VALLEY OF THE HEART  brought a catch to my throat and a strong message to the heart about the hardships that faced the Mexican and Japanese farmers in the 1930=40s in California.  Luis Valdez is well known in Silicon Valley for his plays about the local area, but his latest “Valley of the Heart” is drawing raves from sold-out audiences for its realistic and emotional story of the cultural clashes between the Japanese and Hispanic farming communities in the 1940s.  Giving spectacular moving performances were Benjamin (Lakin), Christina Chu (Hana Yamaguchi), Melanie Arii Mah (Teruko), Rafael Toribio (Kurogo), Anthony Chan (Calvin) and Ryan Takemiya (Yoshi Yamaguchi) in this world premiere of “Valley of the Heart”presented in partnership by San Jose Stage Company and El Teatro Campesino.

Valley of the Heart poignant train scene depicts the forced relocation of Japanese during World War II.

The day I saw the play, the audience was mesmerized by the story of the two farming families as they tried to eke a living on a 20 acre vegetable farm as partners. Then Pearl Harbor was bombed, and from there in between the story line, the audience is informed of what happened to Japanese families as they were stripped of their freedom as American citizens to be placed within barbed wire confines in the middle of nowhere under harsh living conditions.  Valdez’s very moving play captures your heartfelt sympathy for the two families as they send sons to war, fight for their rights as immigrants trying to make a place for their families to live and thrive during depression and wartime years.  Although already playing to sold-out audiences, the show may be extended to mid March.
This is a true story of adversity that minorities faced and is a history lesson young people could learn from.  Take your families to see this excellent production. How often I heard in the lobby that people weren’t aware of these problems as unfortunately, stories like these are seldom listed in school textbooks.
Rush to get tickets:  www.thestage.org.

San Jose Stage Company Cathleen King and Valley of the Heart actress Christina Chu welcome fans in theater lobby. depicts the forced relocation of Japanese during World War II.
Since 1991, young people have been introduced to the counties and villages of their ancestors through the “In Search of Roots” program that Him Mark Lai and Albert Cheng devoted over 25 years leading.  At least 300 lives have been changed, I am sure, by the influence this study tour made on its students who were taken by these two dedicated leaders to China to discover their roots.
Albert Cheng and Steven Owyang are being honored as Community Leaders by the Angel Island immigration Station Foundation at its annual dinner March 9 in San Francisco.  So to all of you Roots alumni – this is your opportunity to show these two volunteering leaders your appreciation for their leadership in helping you find your cultural identity. Friends of Roots President Brian Yee, who assisted in the formation of this alumni organization, is contacting approximately 270 student alums who had been in the tours during the past 25 years. As he said, “Our group wouldn’t be anything without Albert Cheng, who founded the program along with the late Him Mark Lai. Al still leads but has helped train Steven Owyang, Elsie Lam, Frank Lee, Ty Lim, Walter Lim, Alan Lui, Brandon Louie, John Wong, Rosa Wong-Chi Truong and Ted Truong to carry on the Roots banner.    Ticket reservation info to the Angel Island dinner honoring the Roots program leaders:  Contact Grant Din.  Let’s get a table or two of Al Cheng admirers from Roots alumni.
A very impressive list of speakers will be participating in a two day conference March 12-13 very impressively titled TEMPLES AND MUSEUMS: MANAGING AND INTERPRETING HISTORIC CULTURAL ASSETS.   This important event is being presented by four organizing organizations spearheading the group – Marysville Chinese Community/Bok Kai Temple, Chinese American Museum of Northern California at Marysville, Chinese-American Museums of Chicago, and Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee, Bainbridge Island WA. On Saturday’s program March 12, speaking on “Management, Preservation and Promotion of Active Temples” will be Richard Lim, Eugene Moy, Susan Woon, John Adams,Victor Yue and Gordon Tom.
The topic of Inactive Temples: Preservation and Touristic Potential include speakers  Brian Tom, Jack Frost, Lorna Fandrich, Gerrye Wong and Briana Stuckmeyer.  Sunday’s program will be on “Museums: Preservation and Touristic Potential of Temple Heritage Collections” with speakers Jonathan lee, Lyle Wirtanen, Ruth Lang, Sarah Lim, Llisa Penner, Wallace Hagaman and John Adams.    A panel discussion on “Chinese-American Museums: Role, Funding and Interpretation of Religious Collections” will be conducted by Sarah Lim, Christian Jochim, Allan Low, Eugene Moy, Anita Luk, Brian Tom, and Bennet Bronson.     The conference will also include a visit to the museums and temples at Marysville and Oroville, CA and the Bomb viewing contest always held traditionally at Chinese New Years before the Marysville Temple.  Info:  brianltom@yahoo.com